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Gulf’s stability requires dialogue: minister

Manama Dialogue to offer opportunities for political, military leaders to review crucial issues

Gulf News

Manama: The protection of the Gulf’s security and stability is a shared responsibility that calls for dialogue between all stakeholders, Bahrain’s foreign minister has said.

“Dialogue and understanding are crucial for a more secure and stable future for the peoples of the region and for the international community,” Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa said, one day ahead of the Manama Dialogue, a security and political conference hosted by the Bahraini capital over three days.

“The issues of security and stability in the region top international priorities in light of their strategic significance both politically and economically and their influence on international interactions,” he said.

Bahrain, assuming its pioneering and leadership role in the region, endeavours to provide the appropriate setting to discuss core matters that are related to security in the area and help form a clear vision on how to deal with present and future challenges, Shaikh Khalid said.

Syria will be given special attention at the dialogue on December 7-9.

The opening session will be devoted to “Global Views on Syria” and one of four special sessions will be on “Syria and Regional Security.”.

Sectarianism in the region will also receive wide attention with a plenary session on “the influence of sectarian politics in regional security”.

Countries in the Middle East have been badly affected by the seemingly inexorable rise of sectarianism while several analysts have noted it has become the “dominant dynamic in the region today.”

Other plenary sessions at the Manama Dialogue in its eighth year will address “the US and the region”, “priorities for regional security”, “intervention and mediation” and “Middle East security in a global context.”

The other simultaneous special sessions will debate “counter terrorism”, “strategic reassurance and deterrence” and “security in the Strait of Hormuz.”

“The Manama Dialogue has since its launch in 2004 been steadily gaining in stature for offering opportunities to meet and exchange views and opinions that help draw up regional and international strategies and orientations on critical issues of political, economic and security concern to the international community,” Shaikh Khalid said.

“The Dialogue has now become a reflection of Bahrain’s moderate diplomacy that is invariably keen on reinforcing international relations and ties based on the principles of dialogue, understanding and mutual respect,” he said.

The timing of the Manama Dialogue coincides with fast-paced and complex regional and international developments that require consultations and interactions with centres and people of power and influence, including experts, politicians and military leaders, he said.

“We welcome all the participants who will undoubtedly enrich the dialogue with their views and ideas that will contribute to reaching a common understanding on several issues. We hope that the Manama Dialogue will reinforce security and stability in the region and will help avert tension and violence.”

The Manama Dialogue, co-organised by Bahrain’s foreign ministry and the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), an international authority on political-military conflict, has evolved into a pivotal regional gathering.

“The Manama Dialogue offers participating states unparalleled opportunities for security diplomacy,” the IISS said. “As usual there is the necessary blend of involvement from the foreign, defence and interior ministries as well as the national security councils, intelligence agencies and military establishments.”

The conference, in which participation is by invitation only, comprises “a carefully selected group of individuals who can inform, instruct and influence security policy in the region, and of the non-government delegates.”

The annual event hosted by Bahrain did not take place last year due to the unusual conditions in the country.

At the last summit in December 2010, King Abdullah of Jordan delivered the keynote address while US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave the opening speech.